President Obama's political strategists used a conference call with reporters on Wednesday to play up their grassroots organizing -- but couldn’t stop talking about how much they said the GOP primary fight has wounded Mitt Romney.
Obama for America campaign manager Jim Messina and senior campaign strategist David Axelrod spoke to reporters the day after Super Tuesday's Republican primaries and nominating contests.
“The longer the Republican primary goes, the longer we have to continue to build,” Messina said.
He said the Obama campaign has registered thousands of voters in North Carolina and Virginia; opened field offices in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania; and established a presence in Arizona.
“As we get ready for the general, we’re building in youth, building in Latino and women and other demographics that really matter,” Messina said.
Romney came out ahead, winning six of the 10 states contested on Super Tuesday. But the former Massachusetts governor's victories don't mean much, Obama's strategists said.
“He’s not winning in these states. He’s only limping across the finish line,” Messina said of Romney.
Axelrod said the primary campaign has exposed Romney's vulnerabilities.
“He continues not to connect with working-class voters,” Axelrod said. “He continues to lose among independent voters, and that’s going to become increasingly so as he tacks further to the right.”
Axelrod cited a Fox News Latino poll this week that shows overwhelming support for Obama over Romney among Hispanic voters.
Romney has disputed that the primary has weakened him politically, asserting that it has helped him anticipate what issues Obama will raise. The former Massachusetts governor also said he's much more prepared than he was in his 2008 presidential bid.
"I'm more ready to go after the president than I was when I got started," he told CNBC's Larry Kudlow. "There's an advantage to having done this twice, by the way. First time through, you learn some lessons. Second time through, you're also continuing to learn. I think that's one of the reasons I'm better prepared to go after this race."
Axelrod also criticized Romney’s reluctance to condemn conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh's attacks on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, a supporter of the Obama administration's contraception coverage rule. Romney said that Limbaugh, in calling Fluke a "slut" and "prostitute," used language that he wouldn't have used.
“If you don’t have the strength to stand up to the most strident voices in your party, how are you going to have the strength to stand up to [Irani President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad?” Axelrod asked.
“The Limbaugh thing was a test of leadership,” Axelrod said. “Mitt Romney has failed those tests in the campaign.”
Obama’s strategists acknowledged that Obama’s reelection campaign faces challenges — not least the millions of dollars of super-PAC money expected to be marshaled against the president. But they stressed that their strong ground game, and the bruising Republican nominating contest, work to their advantage.
The campaign will be dispatching Vice President Joe Biden to give a series of speeches in critical states, Messina said. Even though there isn’t yet a Republican nominee to counter, Axelrod said, “We can’t wait to make our case."
“I think that every single day that people watch these Republican candidates, their sense of urgency grows that we need to reelect the president,” Axelrod said.